These are days

Yesterday Grace, Whit and I went back to Storyland. Our first visit was nothing short of magical and I wanted to experience that again. I am determined to jam this summer that I’m not working full of memories for the children. I’m anxious about what reality will look like once I go back to work, and I realize this may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. To that end, I just made plans to take them both to Legoland (yes, in San Diego, ie almost as far as you can get from Boston within the continental US) for three days in early August. I don’t know if I’m insane. After Whit melted down at Chili’s tonight I was convinced I was. But once I caught a glimpse of his angelic sleeping face in the rearview mirror, I decided again that it was a good idea. Stay tuned.

They had another marvelous day at Storyland. We left an hour earlier than planned because it started pouring. As I pulled out of the parking lot I felt a pang of real sadness, surprised by how unhappy I was that this much-anticipated visit was over. I don’t know when we will be back, if I’ll be able to just take them here on the spur of the moment next summer, or even what next week holds.

As we sat in traffic in North Conway, the kids descended into their annoying and predictable bickering. Whit snapped at Grace, “I don’t like you, Grace. Not at all.” She surprised me by saying to him, calmly, “Whit, I know you don’t mean that. I know you care a lot about me.” Conversation closed. She turned and looked out of her window, ignoring him for a while.

After a dinner pitstop at Chili’s we drove the last hour to Boston. Whit fell asleep clutching the threadbare and treasured animal that he’s taken to calling his Beloved Monkey, a name that for some reason charms me. Grace was tired but not asleep, gazing out into the evening. It was simply a beautiful night, everything soft around the edges, the world draped in the faint pink haze of sunset. “Grace?” I spoke into the quiet stillness that had settled over the car. She nodded, caught my eye in the mirror. “I thought what you said earlier about knowing Whit loves you even when he said otherwise was really smart. Try to remember that in life. People say a lot of things they don’t mean.”

“Yes. I think sometimes people say things because they are tired, and cranky, and angry.” She lapsed into silence again and my breath caught in my throat at my daughter’s wisdom. May she hold onto this particular piece of it; I know I for one could use the reminder on an almost daily basis.

The song “These Are Days” came on the radio and about halfway through I realized I was singing along under my breath.

These are days you’ll remember …
Never before or never since, I promise,
will the whole world be warm as this.

I was startled to feel tears rolling down my face. These familiar roads, this beautiful city that I love, on the horizon, wreathed in pale pink fog, these sleepy children, these days passing faster than I can bear. Yet again of the loss that limns every single minute of my life lurched up into the foreground. My heart is so full of aches and fears right now, of feelings so big they threaten to overwhelm me. No matter how determined or desperate I am to make this summer full of warmth for Grace and Whit, of memories and joy, it will end. There is nothing I can do to change that. The keening anguish of this fact is sometimes truly more than I can bear.

I noticed that the license plate on the car in front of me was BEACON. Yes. This is my beacon, there is no question: remembering that this is all I have brings me back, over and over again, to right now. I drove through the beautiful dusk, feeling again the haunting awareness of how fleeting it all is, acknowledging reluctantly the unavoidable truth that my grasping at moments just makes them run through my fingers more quickly. Following my beacon, my eyes dazzled by the deep summer blue sky smudged with faint pink and gray clouds, and light glowing from below the horizon, I drove my children home.

14 thoughts on “These are days”

  1. I love returning to thoughts of those magical days through your words, and yet I find that life and my children and my love for it all has not stopped feeling magical to me even as everything keeps changing.

    I hope you’ll have fun at Legoland—it has to be my favorite of those sorts of places (most of which I actually find to be on par with dental work).

  2. Your writing stirs my soul and brings tears to my eyes. Your children have deep wisdom beyond their years. And I’m glad you are living every moment to the fullest. But don’t doubt that there will be future moments to live too. Different, challenging in new ways, but deep and meaningful and real none-the-less.

  3. Incredible. As ever, your words touch, stir, grip and warm.

    What is also incredible is that I went for a run the other day (a feat in and of itself) and that song by Natalie Merchant come on my iPod. By the time the lyrics got to “These days you might fill with laughter until you break”, I was surprised to find I had tears streaming down my face and was having a hard time breathing, my heart was so seized with melancholy, joy, and longing.

    As I slowed to walk to catch my breath, I thought of how fleeting it all can be. And I thought of you, and sent you a hug. I swear I did.

    And here’s this post.


    So now I’ll go hug my girl and help prepare for tomorrow’s lemonade stand. There is still this time.

  4. I know how it feels to be caught in a moment (in this case a summer) and want to embrace it, not certain of future schedules, separations, etc. Thank you for putting it so well here.

    And on a practical side, as a West Coast girl, I’m glad to hear you’re devoting more than one day to Legoland. It’s our favorite West Coast theme park, and now that they’ve added the aquarium and water park, it just cannot be done in a day! Enjoy!

  5. You will have these moments forever, in your heart. And what a special place for them to reside. Perhaps they will fade, but in your honouring them, both here and in your heart, you will always return to the feeling of them. The feeling never goes away, just the specificity of the moment. The feelings are forever, I’m sure of it!

  6. Beautiful. I had a similar experience at Dana Park in Cambridge today. My two big kids running in the water fountain while baby slept in my arms. I could feel them leaving me and so I just drank it all in, knowing how much this day would mean to me ten, twenty, thirty years from now.

  7. Coming to your blog is quite often startling. (in good ways)

    It is like coming home to a part of myself, every single time, but in innumerably different ways.

    “These are Days” is one of my all time fave songs. I hand wrote out the lyrics to a dear friend when she lived in Uruguay and snail mailed them to her. I think the year was 1996.

    I sing the song (MP3 version now) as we listen to it doing errands around town. My kids know the song, and that I love it.

    I read the lyrics here, tonight, and the tears rolled. Surprise, joy, and how the song is made new again, by discovering here, typed by your hand.

  8. PS: We have a San Diego trip planned in early August as well, 2nd week. Uncanny thing if it so happened to cross paths. We will most likely do a Sea World visit, as well as a zoo visit while we are there. have you been to San Diego before? It is a delightful city. (we lived there nearly 5 yrs before having children)

  9. I can remember thinking I wanted to do a lot with my kids when they were little in the summer. Some summers it worked like planned; some summers not so much. Enjoy the moments! Hold them in your heart forever!!

    Hoping for some family time today at a music festival locally. It is one of the few things we can all agree on these days.

  10. I absolutely LOVE that song. And this post. And you. As usual. Your thoughts…yeah.

    And what Grace said-yes, what a wise girl. I wish I had known what she knows at her age, and I too hope she holds on to that knowledge so tightly. This reflects on YOU, sweet Mama-you’ve done a good job of feeding her soul, that’s what her wisdom shows.

  11. I keep this song on a CD in my car at all times. It is one of my absolute favorites. Just this past weekend I was listening to it while we were all driving home from a visit with my sister out of town and thought I wanted to write a post using the lyrics. And for about a year now I have wanted to make a DVD with pictures of my kids set to this song. Sounds a little cheesy, but I would probably cry like a baby every time I watch it.

    So often lately I have felt sad about time passing, knowing these days are numbered. Then I realize that if I am sad now about something that hasn’t even happened yet I will regret it later. So I am consciously, and with great effort, trying to enjoy these moments and just be thankful I get to experience them at all.

  12. The days are long, but the years are short. I often remind people that they need to enjoy where they are now, since they’ll never be there again. (Though I do find that taking video helps!)

    Side note: “These Are The Days” was the last song I would always play at the tail end of my undergrad all-nighters. Whatever essay or paper I was working on, I would put the finishing touches on as that song played, often as the sun began to rise.

    Fortunately, I didn’t need it when we were at HBS.

  13. Ok so I know this is a year late, but this is so lovely. I often feel like adulthood is trying to recreate these fleeting moments of magic from our childhood, where they seemed to happen all the time. You described that feeling perfectly, that happy tired bliss. Nothing we can do to stop the kids from growing up, but you are giving them so many beautiful moments and memories. Glad I found this. Hope your trip this year is full of its own gorgeous moments.

Comments are closed.